A couple of key concepts
Before we go any further, it’s worth understanding a couple of concepts: the master brand and a brand extension. And the difference between a brand extension and a line extension.
The master brand represents the top-level brand that encompasses all the other branded products and services within an organisation. If you’ve heard of the term “umbrella company”, or the “parent company”, a master brand is exactly that. It serves as the primary identifier and carrier of the overall brand identity. The “main” company, if you will. An example of a master brand is Procter & Gamble (P&G), which falls under the House of Brands architecture model. P&G owns a diverse portfolio of famous brands like Gillette, Ariel, Tide (sold mostly in the USA), Tampax and Pantene, each with its own distinct brand identity and target audience. Other examples of master brands are L’Oréal, COTY, Shisedo, Nestlé, and Unilever.
Brand extension happens when a recognised brand introduces a new product or service that expands beyond its existing offerings. A completely different product or service. For example, P&G’s brand extensions include a variety of different types of products, ranging from laundry detergent (Ariel/Tide) to razors (Gillette) and shampoo (Pantene). Unilever’s brand extensions are varied too, from Ben and Jerry’s ice cream to Domestos bleach.
Brand extension vs line extension
A line extension for Coca Cola would be binging out a chocolate flavoured Coke drink. Ignore the fact that that sounds absolutely vile for a second, and understand that this would be a new product in an existing category. Think Oreo mint flavour, Oreo birthday cake flavour. They’re all line extensions.
A brand extension, as we’ve discussed, is when an existing brand offers a new product in a product category the brand has never competed in. This would be like Coca Cola bringing out an aftershave. Or Oreo bringing out a moisturiser. Ok that one actually sounds good.